Renaming Cobo: How to Reclaim History Without Erasing It

If the name “Cobo” has to go, what other parts of Detroit history merit reconsideration?

Jake Neher/WDET

It has always been “Cobo.” The convention center along the Detroit River at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Washington Boulevard has never had another name in its 60 years of existence.

But its namesake, Mayor Albert Cobo, has always been controversial. He ran on a platform of segregation. His “urban renewal” policies destroyed many black neighborhoods.

It’s fair to say that many of the city’s racial divisions during the 1950s were fueled by Cobo and his approach.

Now, after 60 years, Cobo Center will get a new name. Chemical Bank bought the naming rights for the convention center for $33 million.

Is changing the name the right thing to do? Is the right way to handle history to erase the parts of our past that are painful or inappropriate?

And if Cobo has to go, what other parts of Detroit history merit reconsideration?

Larry Alexander is chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Jamon Jordan is the owner of Black Scroll Network History & Tours, which focuses on black history in Detroit.

Alexander and Jordan join Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about the news and the deeper questions around it.

Click on the audio player above to hear those conversations.


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